RIM sets software to keep Blackberry going

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) said Wednesday that it has a software work-around design that is ready and can be implemented if necessary to resolve its patent dispute with NTP Inc.

Mark Guibert, vice president of corporate marketing at Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, responded to a question from Computerworld about the status of any work-around in an e-mail Wednesday, and he said that RIM has built software. But he gave few details.

IT managers and other BlackBerry users, worried that the legal fight with NTP could lead to a shutdown of RIM’s popular wireless voice and e-mail service, have called for a work-around to avoid any disruptions.

Guibert, in his statement, addressed the prospect of an injunction by a U.S. District Court and argued that existing RIM customers should be entitled to continued service in the event one is issued. He also said RIM is “open to a reasonable resolution with NTP.”

James Wallace, an attorney representing Arlington, Va.-based NTP, said on Monday that NTP is seeking a refined injunction against RIM that would include exemptions for federal and other government users and emergency first responders, as well as a 30-day grace period for users to find new products and services. Guibert Wednesday said RIM, which has about 4 million customers, would offer arguments in court seeking a grace period longer than 30 days.

Here is the complete response from Guibert when asked whether a work-around is in place:

“RIM’s software work-around designs are ready and will be implemented if necessary. There is, however, no injunction order currently in place, and it is far from clear whether existing customers would even be subject to any potential injunction. In the event of an injunction (although, to be clear, RIM doesn’t believe an injunction is appropriate), RIM believes that existing customers would be entitled to continuing service and that any injunction, if granted, should only apply to new devices being sold.

“In the event of an injunction barring the sale of RIM’s current product designs, RIM would preload the new software work-around on devices prior to shipping to customers. Work-arounds are a legitimate strategy respected by the courts, so RIM would be fully entitled to alter its software with a non-infringing workaround and continue shipping.

“Even if an injunction were granted, and even if it applied to existing users, a grace period would allow time for customers to install the necessary software update to allow continued service. NTP has suggested a 30-day grace period, but RIM would present the courts with facts and arguments that warrant a longer grace period.

“In parallel to the court proceedings, the Patent Office is continuing its re-examinations. All of the NTP patents have already been soundly rejected by the Patent Office, and the Patent Office is expected to issue final office actions in the coming weeks.

“RIM continues to be open to a reasonable resolution with NTP, but RIM also believes that its remaining legal arguments, work-around alternative and the impending Patent Office reexaminations will allow RIM to protect customer interests against NTP’s threats.”

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